Location: Reading, Massachusets
College: Syracuse University (GO ORANGE!)
Currently Teaching: A lot of types of art to a lot of types of middle schoolers
Fun Fact: She started #ArtsEdChat on Twitter
Her classroom in a sentence: Students gaining confidence in themselves and their art as they have fun creating.
Sarah Doane is an amazing middle school teacher, and her #ArtsEdChat that she started with Chelsie Meyer has been a great Twitter resource for so many art teachers throughout the country (and beyond). She was one of the first people I followed on Twitter, and her kind, bubbly, and infectious personality was incredibly welcoming when I first joined in with #ArtsEdChat. She decided to answer a few questions for me.
Can you give me a quick bio? Where you grew up, went to school, where you’ve taught, where/what you’re teaching now, etc. Also, what made you want to teach art?
I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s an artsy city that is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet every summer, as well as having the oldest horse racing track in the country. I was fortunate to participate in a public art event called “Horses, Saratoga Style” in both 2002 and 2007. Various artists were selected to paint on fiberglass horse sculptures that were put on display throughout the city. In 2007, I actually worked on the horse in my classroom so that my students could watch the progress. Both horses are still on display in the city today.
I’ve been teaching at the Coolidge Middle School in Reading, MA the past 11 years. It’s a suburban town 12 miles north of Boston. I taught elementary art for 4 years before that.
Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to be an art teacher. In second grade we had to write an essay about what we would be doing in year 2000. My amazing teacher sent us all our essays 15 years later when the turn of the century actually happened. At the time I received the letter I was just finishing up my first year teaching. It was a neat experience to read about the dreams my younger self had come up with and realize that some of them had already been fulfilled. Making art with kids all day is the greatest job.
What are your strengths as an artist? What role does your personal artmaking play in both your classroom teaching and in your own life?
My concentration as part of the art education degree I received in college was ceramics. I find the process very calming and enjoy its wide range of possibilities. Over the years I’ve gotten more into watercolor and oil painting. Making my own doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like these days. There’s just not enough time in the day.
What do you do outside of school to keep yourself happy and healthy? On a related note, what do you enjoy about where you live?
Living just outside of Boston allows my family to do some really neat things, such as enjoying great restaurants, historic sites, and world-class museums. I love our Boston sports teams but I’m an avid Syracuse basketball fan. March Madness is my favorite time of the year. I also make time to keep myself healthy by taking classes at the gym three times a week.
What things do you do to continue to grow as a teacher? How much do you change yourself, your teaching style, or your lessons each year?
I try to attend conferences as much as possible. The National Art Education Convention is always an amazing experience as well as EdCamp Boston. My school district hosts the Blueprint for Excellence National Institute every spring. I get to hear a lot of inspiring keynote speakers and go to great workshops through that too.
Lesson planning is always a big topic of discussion in my house. My husband doesn’t understand why I don’t save myself the time and do the same things every year. Ummmm…. because I’d get bored doing that?! I’d say I try to keep about half of the lessons from year to year and build upon them to make them even better, then scrap the rest to try new ideas.
What are the ideas, or who are the people, or maybe even what are the websites, that influence you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?
About a year and half ago I started up #Artsedchat on Twitter with @chelsiemeyer. Since I am the only art teacher in my building I was looking for a way to connect with other teachers in the same field. We did a little research and found that there wasn’t currently any chat happening for art teachers. It’s an amazing way to talk with other art educators from around the country. I’m so inspired by the innovation and diversity of ideas that everyone shares each month. I always walk away with new ideas to try out in my classroom. We’ve moved the day and time around a bit over the course of the past year but it’s currently the 2nd Sunday of each month at 8:30ET/ 7:30 CT. It’s the best half hour of professional development I do every month!
Some of my favorites on twitter are:@ArtClassWithLMJ @artrendering @play2cre8 @eastartroom @atragg @twoducks @campbellartsoup @ColleenKR @iansands
Tell me about your classroom. What are you trying to accomplish with the way you set up your room?
Super organized. I teach 500 students every year so I have to stay on top of everything in order for the classroom to run efficiently. It’s decorated with lot of fun accents. There are buckets hanging from the ceiling above each table with different colors spilling out of them, large tissue paper flowers winding around one wall and cardboard letters spelling out create down another. I want the art room to be an inspiring space for my students.
What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to do better?
I think my strengths are connecting with students, creating projects that allow them to work with subject matters that are interesting to them and having high expectations about quality of work. I also love incorporating technology whenever possible.
What might be a weakness you see? Or what would be something that you’d like to teach, or can’t/don’t do it? What is holding you back?
I’d like to try more choice based projects. I love the idea of students guiding their own creative experiences. However, my very type A personality has a hard time giving up control. I’m nervous that students won’t learn essential skills and that managing materials would be a nightmare with the number of students I have. It was a topic during one of our #Artsedchats a few months ago. I came away with some strategies I’d like to try at some point during this semester.
Where do you stand on the neverending art teacher debate: Process, Product, or both? Why?
Product. I always tell students that “work” makes up the majority of the name “artwork.” I stress to students that it takes a lot of practice, time and effort to produce quality work. My students end up completing about 6 quality pieces over the course of the semester. I’d love for them to create more but I don’t’ want to sacrifice quality over quantity.
What do you want students to take away from your class? What do they learn, and how do they develop after spending time in your classroom?
I want every student to leave with an appreciation for art. My favorite art quote is, “The earth without art is just eh.” A lot of students start art class with the misconception that it’s just a lot of fun and not all that important. I try to stress to them throughout the year that art is all around them. It’s neat to see them realize that artist create everything from the graphic on their cereal box, to the clothes they pick out every day and the video games they play after school. A newer goal over the past few years has been to get students to feel comfortable taking risks and thinking outside the box. These are skills they will need in the future no matter what career path they choose.
Since I would never be able to teach middle schoolers, could you tell me what it is you love about them?
I love my middle school students because they are fun, spontaneous and social. They are also very impressionable which makes teaching at this level so special. It’s neat to catch their interest in art at this age and see them continue on to pursue it at the high school level and possibly beyond.